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Empires Fall. Now It’s America’s Turn, and Russia Will Make It Happen

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It’s important for bullies to always win.  Because once their weakness is exposed they can no longer be bullies.

Empires don’t start out as bullies.  They start out as the reaction to the last Empire which became a bully after embracing hubris over humility.

Empires have to resort to bullying near the end because they are fundamentally weak.  They all over-extend themselves through currency debasement which, in turn, degrades the cultural advantage the society had over the previous Empire.

Donald Trump knows how to bully with the best of them.  I go back and forth about his status as a bully, however.  He is a mercurial figure whose unpredictability is predictable.

I see him more as Loki than the typical bully.  In other words, it’s probably fair to say that to Trump bullying is just another tactic.

So, as the head of the U.S., an Empire in the early stages of collapse, fundamentally weakened by two generations of empire building after the failure of Bretton Woods, Trump will bully his opposition because he knows that an Empire that is not feared is one that will soon be laughed at.

And when that happens, it’s game over.

Trump understands that the U.S. can no longer afford to pay for the post-WWII institutional order.  Europe’s been rebuilt but the EU is in the process of tearing it down for the sake of globalism.

And Germany is the one benefiting on our dime.

So, if you are opposed to the Empire, regardless of your politics, seeing Trump take it to the G-7 and, in particular, Germany should be welcomed.

Where you should be worried however, is how that same bullying is being turned on Russia and Iran.  In my latest article for Strategic Culture Foundation I remind everyone that none other than Mr. Realpolitik, Henry Kissinger, was advising Trump on Ukraine and Crimea in early 2017.

And after looking at the way Trump is prosecuting our relationship with Russia it’s clear to me now Kissinger had a stronger influence on Trump than anyone thought.

As the Kremlin Turns

The Left still screaming about Russia collusion are themselves delusional.  Trump hasn’t been secretly doing nice things for Putin behind everyone’s back.  There’s no coordination of policy between them.

I spent most of 2017 arguing with MAGA folks convinced that Trump and Putin were waging a secret war on the Deep State and the Neocons.  4-D chess arguments abounded.

When the reality was that while Trump and Putin keep in touch to ensure little direct conflict between the U.S. and Russian forces in Syria takes place, that is not evidence that Trump is soft on Russia in any way.

Not provoking a nuclear-armed country is not evidence of collusion, just functional brain cells.  A statement I can’t make about most of Trump’s critics this week.

This is an operating principle which governed this week’s summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un as well.  Trump was smart to meet with Kim, who did outmaneuver the U.S. over the past five years, by achieving nuclear-armed status.

It forced the U.S. to the table and Trump, smartly, took the opportunity to save face and choose peace.

The same thing is not on the horizon with Russia today.

The Kremlin has moved on.  It would like a better relationship with Washington but it has no illusions about it happening.  To Putin’s credit he has not ruled out speaking with Trump, but as Alistair Crooke points out today, there’s little good reason for him doing so.

Trump has crossed so many lines with his Kissinger-inspired policy to force Russia to abandon its relationship with China through economic and political aggression that there’s little to be gained by chatting about anything other than the weather.

Beware the Cauldron

To beat a bully you have to let him over-extend himself.  He has to feel confident of your passivity in the face of his aggression.  That means if you slap him in the face, he turns the other cheek.

If you attack his friends, he doesn’t attack you.

For more than a year we’ve seen these things play out around the world vis a vis Russia in Syria and in Europe.  The attacks are both military, Syria and Ukraine, and financial, the Nordstream 2 pipeline.

I’ve detailed all of this at length over the past year.  Putin has taken so many shots to the chin that U.S. / Russian relations bear a great resemblance to the “Rumble in the Jungle” where Mohammed Ali let George Foreman punish him for round after round, expending himself in a futile attempt to knock Ali out.

And once Foreman’s arms felt like lead and his legs like Jello, Ali struck so hard and so fast that he stunned the world.

Russian military strategy is dominated by this type of thinking.  Lure your opponent in. Create a weak spot and allow him to attack it over and over.  Invite the chaos.  Allow him to think he is winning.

So here’s where we are today:

  1. If Trump is successful in getting Germany to cower before his sanctions regime that will, in turn, put Iran under heavy pressure financially and socially.
  2. That may yet lead to a formal withdrawal of IRGC Quds forces from Syria.  Yet another win.
  3. But, it will only happen if the U.S. leaves the border crossing at Al-Tanf.  Small pirce to pay.
  4. Germany’s government is on increasingly shaky grounds as AfD are making her life miserable in the Bundestag and her partner Horst Seehofer of the CSU, as Interior Minister is openly defying her over migrant policy.  
  5. The U.S. negotiates a deal with Turkey to control Manbij, possibly to undermine Russia’s relationship with Erdogan, keeping the Turks in Syria to complicate peace talks.
  6. Military conflict in Ukraine likely in the next few weeks with the UAF attacking the Donbass and an incident in the Sea of Azov.
  7. This supports a failing Poroshenko government in trouble before the election and sucker Putin into direct support which can justify more sanctions and keeping the EU on board because of “Russian Aggression” and “Not supporting the Minsk process.”
  8. Trump is openly tying sanctions and trade normalization with the Nordstream 2 pipeline in brazen mafia-style negotiating tactics further complicating Merkel’s life.
  9. Five more Russian companies were sanctioned this week over ‘cyber attacks.’
  10. He’s openly threatening major multinationals who do business in the U.S. for being a part of Nordstream 2.

I think you get the point.  I could go on for another page or two.

Closing the Trap

The point is that this is classic bullying behavior.  Trump is pot-committed, as poker-players say, to this policy.

Once you start with sanctions and threats, you can’t stop.  It’s go all the way or have your bluff called.  With Europe Trump holds aces.  They are dependent on the U.S. and their weakness will be the U.S.’s gain over the next year or two.  Europe’s sovereign debt crisis will explode and the U.S. will see massive foreign in-flows.

It’ll be a massive win but it won’t be the win.  And in winning over Europe it sets him up for the big loss; the fight for the Middle East and Eurasian integration.

His gambit with Russia and Iran becoming an all-or-nothing proposition.  Trump has just about pushed all-in.  Russia/Iran/China’s passivity has emboldened him. The fecklessness of the Obama administration creating dumpster fires in Ukraine and Syria, however, handed him bad cards and a dwindling stack.

He hasn’t won a hand in the Middle East yet.  Sure he’s made headlines but Putin, Rouhani, Nasrallah and Assad have won all the skirmishes that matter.  Any wins Trump has gotten were easy ones to pick up.  The framework for a deal has always been the same.  And no amount of Kissinger-style complications were going to change them.

Iran no more wants to stay in Syria than Putin wants to intervene in The Donbass. So, getting Iran out of Syria is easy.  All Trump has to do is leave.  Israel won’t like it, but it won’t be their decision.  Putin made that clear to Netanyahu when he visited Moscow.

The Kurds are the ones to make that decision for Trump, now that they are openly negotiating with Damascus after Trump backstabbed them over Manbij.

Without the support of the Kurds, the U.S. cannot stay in Syria at all.

So, when we reach the showdown hand Trump won’t have aces.  And the classic Russian cauldron will collapse in around him.  And losing there will be the end of the U.S. empire abroad.

And the world will rejoice.

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Census 2022 – what difference does it make?

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Next Sunday, April 3rd, is Census night. Millions of people in homes countrywide will fill in page after page of questions, some of which are deeply personal and many of which might be unfamiliar.

But what it is it all about?

At a basic level, Census 2022 will be used to inform planning of public policy and services in the years ahead, according to the Central Statistics Office.

The questions will cover a range of environmental, employment and lifestyle issues, including the use of renewable energy sources in homes.

The questions will help inform policy development in the areas of energy and climate action, and the prevalence of internet access, to understand the availability of and need for internet connections and range of devices used to access the internet.

Questions also focus on changes in work patterns and will include the trend of working from home and childcare issues, while questions are also asked about the times individuals usually leave work, education or childcare, to help identify and plan for transport pattern needs locally and nationally.

Other topics covered include volunteering and the type of organisations volunteers choose to support, tobacco usage and the prevalence of smoke alarms in the home.

And of course there is a time capsule – the chance to write something which will be sealed for the next 100 years.

In this episode of In The News, the head of census administration Eileen Murphy and statistician Kevin Cunningham about what it all means for us.

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Oscars 2022: Will Smith makes Oscar history after slapping Chris Rock over joke about wife Jada Pinkett Smith | Culture

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Will Smith took the Oscar for Best Actor at last night’s 94th Academy Awards, but he also became the protagonist of the ceremony for other reasons. The night was following the script, until Smith slapped comedian Chris Rock on the stage after the latter made a joke about the shaved head of the former’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. Rock had quipped that he was “looking forward to GI Jane 2,” in reference to her look. Pinkett Smith has revealed publicly that she has alopecia. It looked as if the moment had been planned, until Smith went back to his seat and shouted: “Get my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth.”

The moment, which immediately became Oscar history but for all the wrong reasons, left the attendees with frozen smiles, and asking themselves whether it was possible that a veteran such as Smith could have lost his cool in front of tens of millions of people. After taking the prize for Best Actor, the superstar actor made a tearful apology, saying that he hoped the Academy “will invite me back.” Later on, actor Anthony Hopkins called for “peace and love,” but it was already too late. The incident overshadowed the success of CODA, which took the Oscar for Best Picture. Just like the time when Warren Beatty mistakenly named La La Land as the big winner of the night, no one will speak about anything else from last night’s awards.

At first sight, Smith’s actions looked as if they were scripted. When he first heard Rock’s joke, he laughed. But his wife was seen on camera rolling her eyes, and it was then that the actor got up onto the stage and hit Rock. When he returned to his seat he raised his voice twice to shout “Get my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth,” sending a wave of unease and shock through the attending audience. The fact that he used the f-word, which is prohibited on US television, set alarm bells ringing that this was real and not a planned moment. In fact, the curse word was censored by the broadcaster, ABC, in the United States.

During a break, Smith’s PR manager approached him to speak. In the press room, which the actor skipped after collecting his prize, instructions were given to the journalists not to ask questions about the incident, Luis Pablo Beauregard reports. The next presenter, Sean “Diddy” Combs, tried to calm the situation. “Will and Chris, we’re going to solve this – but right now we’re moving on with love,” the rapper said.

When Smith took to the stage to collect his Best Actor award for his role as Richard Williams – the father of tennis stars Venus and Serena – in King Richard, he referred to the character as “a fierce defender of his family.” He continued: “I’m being called on in my life to love people and to protect people and to be a river to my people. I know to do what we do you’ve got to be able to take abuse, and have people talk crazy about you and have people disrespecting you and you’ve got to smile and pretend it’s OK.”

He explained that fellow actor Denzel Washington, who also spoke to Smith during a break, had told him: “At your highest moment, be careful, that’s when the devil comes for you.”

“I want to be a vessel for love,” Smith continued. “I want to be an ambassador of that kind of love and care and concern. I want to apologize to the Academy and all my fellow nominees. […] I look like the crazy father just like they said about Richard Williams, but love will make you do crazy things,” he said. He then joked about his mother, who had not wanted to come to the ceremony because she had a date with her crochet group.

The Los Angeles Police Department released a statement last night saying that Chris Rock would not be filing any charges for assault against Smith. “LAPD investigative entities are aware of an incident between two individuals during the Academy Awards program,” the statement read. “The incident involved one individual slapping another. The individual involved has declined to file a police report. If the involved party desires a police report at a later date, LAPD will be available to complete an investigative report.”

On December 28, Pinkett Smith spoke on social media about her problems with alopecia. She stated that she would be keeping her head shaved and would be dealing with the condition with humor. “Me and this alopecia are going to be friends… Period!” she wrote on Instagram.



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House-price inflation set to stay double digit for much of 2022

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House-price inflation is expected to remain at double-digit levels for much of 2022 as the mismatch between what is for sale and what buyers want continues.

Two new reports on the housing market paint a picture of a sector under strain due to a lack of supply and increased demand driven by Covid-related factors such as remote working.

The two quarterly reports, one each from rival property websites myhome.ie and daft.ie, suggest asking prices accelerated again in the first quarter of 2022 as the stock of homes available for sale slumped to a new record low.

Myhome, which is owned by The Irish Times, said annual asking-price inflation was now running at 12.3 per cent.

Price

This put the median or typical asking price for a home nationally at €295,000, and at €385,000 in Dublin.

MyHome said the number of available properties for sale on its website fell to a record low of 11,200 in March, down from a pre-pandemic level of 19,000. The squeeze on supply, it said, was most acute outside Dublin, with the number of properties listed for sale down almost 50 per cent compared with pre-pandemic levels.

It said impaired supply and robust demand meant double-digit inflation is likely until at least mid-2022.

“Housing market conditions have continued to tighten,” said author of the myhome report, Davy chief economist Conall Mac Coille.

“The broad picture of the market in early 2022 remains similar to last year: impaired supply coupled with robust demand due to Ireland’s strong labour market,” he said.

Soure: MyHome.ie

“One chink of light is that new instructions to sell of 7,500 in the first 11 weeks of 2022 are well up from 4,800 in 2021, albeit still below the 9,250 in 2019. The flow of new properties therefore remains impaired,” said Mr Mac Coille.

“Whatever new supply is emerging is being met by more than ample demand. Hence, transaction volumes in January and February were up 13 per cent on the year but pushed the market into ever tighter territory,” he said.

He said Davy was now predicting property-price inflation to average 7 per cent this year, up from a previous forecast of 4.5 per cent, buoyed strong employment growth.

Homes

Daft, meanwhile, said house asking prices indicated the average listed price nationwide in the first quarter of 2022 was €299,093, up 8.4 per cent on the same period in 2021 and and just 19 per cent below the Celtic Tiger peak, while noting increases remain smaller in urban areas, compared to rural.

Just 10,000 homes were listed for sale on its website as of March 1st, an all-time low. In Dublin, Cork and Galway cities, prices in the first quarter of 2022 were roughly 4 per cent higher on average than a year previously, while in Limerick and Waterford cities the increases were 7.6 per cent and 9.3 per cent respectively.

The report’s author, Trinity College Dublin economist Ronan Lyons, said: “Inflation in housing prices remains stubbornly high – with Covid-19 disturbing an equilibrium of sorts that had emerged, with prices largely stable in 2019 but increasing since.

“As has been the case consistently over the last decade, increasing prices – initially in Dublin and then elsewhere – reflect a combination of strong demand and very weak supply.”


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